What is the place of formal worksheets in the teaching of handwriting? These can be useful for some children whose letter formation is established and who find the sheets satisfying. Many commercial sheets are often small scale, though, so take care not to introduce them too soon.
The National Strategies online guidance, Gateway to Writing, offers excellent advice on the use of such sheets and suggests, also, a new ‘take’ on them – fun, imaginative ‘worksheets’ that you and your children create together, which have motivational appeal. An example given is to give children pre-cut green ‘cabbage leaves’, for them to draw ‘caterpillars’ (letter c) on. Several ‘leaves’ can be stapled together to make a ‘cabbage’. Other ideas are apples lying under a tree, or oranges growing in a tree. You and your children will think of many more!
Using your children’s role play passions to inspire these fun ‘worksheets’ will ensure that they are motivated to use them – not, of course, during actual role play. For this, Child’s Eye Media’s role play sheets, part of the gold award-winning ‘Young Writers’ Role Play Pack’ (www.childseyemedia.com) are ideal, as they are differentiated for both mark-makers and emergent writers and accurately reflect the ‘real thing’, the record sheets and log books etc used by the adult ‘people who help us’ in the DVDs which are also in the Pack, along with distinctive outfits. Children as young as three will have plenty of space to ‘make their mark’ as they become police officers, firefighters, car rescuers, vets , doctors and nurses, dentists, refuse collectors and recyclers or postal workers, writing as they go about their important business, just like the adults in the films.
The ‘people who help us’ themes in the Pack are ideal for inspiring your own letter formation ‘worksheets’ which will capitalise on your children’s interests and be fun to use. Children who have been ‘dentists’ will enjoy writing on paper pre-cut in the shape of large tooth paste tubes. They could practise writing the world ‘Colgate’ several times (great for practising the anti-clockwise round letter group). Give ‘doctors’, paper cut in the shape of a medical bag, to practise writing ‘Dr.’ over and over. On the back, they can draw a doctor’s instruments. They will also be soon proficient at signing ‘Dr.’ and their surname on the bottom of the ‘prescription’ role play sheets in the Pack. Similarly, give ‘police officers’ paper cut in the shape of a police car, so they can practise writing ‘PC’. They will then be able to sign their ‘Police report form’ ‘PC _____’ Give ‘firefighters’ fire-engine shaped paper, so they can write ‘999’ several times – an iconic number which offers more practice for the anti-clockwise movement. ‘Refuse collectors and recyclers’ will enjoy writing their road name (hugely important for every child) on paper shaped like a recycling wagon. The Recycling film shows how recyclers must record every road they visit to ensure no address is left out. On the back of the sheet they can draw groups of items collected for recycling. Give ‘car rescuers’ paper in the shape of a ‘rescue truck’ so they can practise writing their car registration number several times. ‘Postal workers’ will enjoy practising writing their postcode over and over on paper shaped like a mail bag. On the back, they can draw items delivered by postpeople, e.g. letters and different kinds of greeting cards. Aspiring ‘vets’ can be offered paper cut in the shape of a vet’s bag, and they can write ‘vet’ several times on the front. On the back they can draw a vet’s instruments. To find out what these are, see the film, ‘Alex, Hannah and the vets’ in the ‘Young Writers’ Role Play Pack’, www.childseyemedia.com .
Formal worksheets can have a place in the teaching of handwriting, but it’s much more inspiring and fun for you and your children to create your own around children’s interests.